Good news, skywatchers! The annual Perseid Meteor Shower will be brightening our skies from August 11th to 13th of this year. Here's everything you need to know about how to catch it.
The Perseid Meteor Shower is one of the most popular celestial events to watch each year. On average, about 80 meteors per hour can be seen from our Earth during the shower. Last year, however, was an exception. 2016 was considered an "outbreak" year, which produced a rate of about 150-200 meteors p/hour. Check out this time-lapse video of 2016's Perseid Shower:
Don't be fooled- some sources are stating that this year's shower will be the brightest in history. Though 2017's shower will likely be beautiful, it won't be as bright as those of years prior, since the the light of the moon will be blocking a portion of the action.
"Rates will be about half what they would be normally, because of the bright moonlight," explained NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke to Space.com. "Instead of 80 to 100, [there will be] 40 to 50 per hour. And that's just because the moon's going to wash out the fainter ones."
But don't lose hope! Though the moon will be big and bright that night, balls of lights will still be visible streaking through our night sky, according to Cooke: "But the good news is that the Perseids are rich in fireballs; otherwise the moon would really mess with them."
Where Can I See Them?
You'll be able to see the meteors anywhere from the northern hemisphere to the mid-southern latitudes. All you need is darkness, lots of sky, and a little bit of time- your eyes don't fully adjust to darkness until about 30 minutes, or so. If you live in a big city with lots of light pollution, try to find a location in a suburb, outskirt or outer borough to skywatch.
When Can I See Them?
The best time to view the meteor shower will be around midnight on Saturday, Aug. 12th. During that day, the Earth will be passing through the densest area of dust and debris left behind by the Swift-Tuttle Comet, the largest known object to regularly pass our Earth in its orbit around the sun. In other words, this is the time in which the most meteors can be seen in the least amount of time. However, the shower will be visible during the nights before and after the 12th, as well.
Get The Lingo Down!
When you view a meteor shower, what you're really seeing is comet debris getting cooked by our atmosphere as it approaches Earth. These pieces of comet burn up in balls of light as they travel at a whopping 37 miles per second! We often call these "shooting stars," but that's a bit of a misnomer. Here are the correct classifications of this kind of debris:
Meteoroids: Comet debris found in space.
Meteors: Debris that reaches our Earth's atmosphere.
Meteorite: A meteor that makes its way down to the Earth's surface without completely burning up.
Will you be watching the skies with us during the weekend of August 12th? Let us know in the comment section below!